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Taylor is among a trio of astronauts to land on a strange new world after being in deep sleep for a really long time. He arrives on a world inhabited by primitive humans and highly developed Apes. The Apes discover that Taylor can talk. Chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius help Taylor escape from Gorilla soldiers that want him killed out of fear he may damage the foundation of Ape society and beliefs or lead a revolution.
Nova is a native human that Taylor finds on the Ape world. She is unable to speak and primitive on many levels. Still Taylor is captivated by her. The Apes try to pair Nova and Taylor together for breeding purposes. Nova becomes a faithful follower of Taylor and travels with Taylor into the Forbidden Zone. Nova returns in the second Apes movie and helps a new crashed earthly astronaut in his quest to find Taylor.
Dr. Zaius
Dr Zaius serves as a political leader and the "Defender of the Faith" in Ape Society. He knows of Man's past as the dominating life force on Earth, and of the Ape's true past as beasts and then slaves to man. Along with his Gorilla Ally General Ursus he keeps the secret of Man's legacy from Ape society and questions talking astronaut Taylor about his origin. Petrified of man and his dangerous bloodthirsty nature Zauis keeps watch over an area known as the Forbidden Zone where artifacts of man's past exist.
Cornelius is an archaeologist who has explored the Forbidden Zone of the Ape World. There he found evidence of a culture much older than any Ape culture known to exist. Orangautaun Dr Zauis condemns his research in this area as heresy although Zaius knows that Cornelius stumbled onto artifacts from man's previous dominant culture on the planet before the Apes. Cornelius theorizes that his artifact discoveries prove that a higher culture existed before the current ape one. A missing link perhaps half way between Man and Apes lead up to the creation of modern day Apes he believes. His theory that Ape's evolved from men, is ridiculed by Zaius and other religious officials as heresy. Cornelius wants to keep his place in society and tries to keep some of his beliefs to himself because of this. When Taylor, a talking human arrives on the scene his wife convinces him that they just have to help him escape Ape authorities. Cornelius is the reluctant hero.
Zira is a veterinarian and noted scientist in the areas of psychology on the Ape world. Zira performs brain research on humans, who on her world are considered no different than lab animals. She believes studying lower life forms like man can lead to medical advancements for her own Simian race. She discovers Taylor, a man who can speak, and refers to him as bright eyes. She finds the tale of his origin fascinating and convinces her husband Cornelius that they have to help Taylor escape Ape authorities.
Survives crash on strange new planet only to be shot and killed by Gorilla soldiers. Late he is exhibited as a stuffed animal in a museum.
An all American chosen for a mission in space he could not turn down because of pride. Captured by Gorillas and lobotomized.
Female Astronaut
Dies before crash-landing.
Zira's chimpanzee nephew and an idealist eager to help Taylor and suspicious of adults in general